Bill Viola and curator Matthew Gale talk us through the genus of the project and how the artist took on the challenge of creating the first moving-image artwork to be installed in a British cathedral or church on a long-term basis.
Martyrs, a work by Bill Viola and Kira Perov, features four individuals, across four vertical screens, being martyred by the four classical elements Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Flames rain down, water cascades, winds rage, and earth flies up. However, each martyr’s resolve remains unchanged during the darkest hour of the martyr’s passage through death into the light.
Tiny Deaths was made in 1993. Barely visible figures are perceived in the darkened space until crescendos of light and sound bring moments of drama. The three projections envelop the viewer in the intense experience of the appearance and sudden disappearance of these presences.
Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) by Bill Viola is now on permanent display at St Paul’s Cathedral and will be accompanied by a second piece entitled Mary from 2015. For more information on the work, please visit the St Paul’s website.